Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Do you support Israel or Jesus? (Part 2 of 3)

In the first century, Israel was mostly made up of Pharisees and Sadducees, who by the way did not get along very well. The former was a group of religious anti-Christian extremists, the latter was comprised mostly of liberal power brokers intent on making themselves richer. Today, Israel is mostly made up of Orthodox Jews (think Pharisees) and Secular Humanists (think Sadducees, or as in the United States, Liberal democrats).  Not much has changed since the first century. In the first century, both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were busy persecuting our brothers and sisters in Christ and now, they continue to do the same. For the most part, Israel has not changed, they are enemies of the gospel.

Imagine for a second if our president put forth a bill that uses tax payer money to fully pay for all abortions for women between the ages of 20 and 33. Imagine if our president passed a bill requiring that our nation recognize homosexual marriages as equal to heterosexual marriages (as long as the ceremony took place elsewhere).  Imagine if our nation passed a law making it illegal for churches to hold Vacation Bible School, or to share the gospel with anyone under 18 years of age. Would you give your money and moral support to that president? There is a bit of hypocrisy in the Christian world. On one hand we want to villainize our own president's war against Christian values but we give unflinching support to Israel who wars against those same values. If we are to be consistently on the side of Christ, then we should be on the side of the gospel. We should give our support to our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in Israel and not to the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who suppress and afflict Christians who live there.

Israel is just like the US. Israel is a mix of Pharisees, Sadducees, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Catholics and Agnostics. They are NOT a theocracy. They are NOT a people who live under the covenant that God made with them. In fact, (and this is the key point) they could NOT live under that covenant even if they wanted to because it no longer exists. God has made the covenant with them obsolete and has established a new covenant. This new covenant is not by the law but by grace through faith. 

When God chose the Jewish people, he entered into a covenant with them. He established this covenant with laws and statutes that they were required to keep.  For example, they were required to build a dwelling place for God and the Ark of the Covenant. They then had to sacrifice animals on the altar and offer grain offerings.  They had to obey all of God's laws regarding how they dressed, what they ate, how they farmed the land, and literally hundreds of other requirements. The covenant God had entered into with them assured them that IF they kept all these commands, then God would be their God and they would be His people.  God spoke to this to them saying, "IF you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples." (Exodus 19:5).  

Those who are familiar with history know that they did not keep the covenant and were rejected by God. In fact, Jesus proclaims to them, "Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." So Jesus clearly recognizes that they have been abandoned by God and if they are to ever recover, they MUST accept Jesus as the Messiah, the only one who has kept the demands of the covenant perfectly. 

Since Jesus has fulfilled the demands of the Old Covenant, the Old Covenant is now removed, abolished, and fulfilled. Imagine for a moment that an athlete signs a one year contract with a team. He agrees to play in every game for one year in return for $10 million. However, if he does not play in every single game, he gets paid nothing.  Now if the athlete plays in every game, he gets paid the $10 million and the contract is fulfilled. He can no longer make demands upon the team for more money and the team can no longer make demands upon him to play in more games. 

Likewise, when Jesus (who took Israel's place as the covenant keeper) met the demands of the covenant and received the reward of the covenant,  the covenant was fulfilled. The people of the covenant are no longer able to make any claims on the covenant. All of the demands of the covenant, having been fulfilled, can no longer be in force. So the keeping of the law of sacrifices, burnt offerings, and all other commandments can no longer earn them the title "my treasured possession." Even if they were able to keep all of these laws (which they can't) God would still not make them his treasured possession because the Covenant has been abolished. The promises don't apply anymore. To put it in the language of the sports analogy, the year is over and every game has been played. If you want to earn more, you have to sign a new contract. Fortunately for both Jews and Gentiles, God has created a new contract.  This time, it's not a contract just for the Jews, but he opened it up for all people groups. So in this way it is not like the old one. 

The New Covenant is not like the old one in other ways as well. The New Covenant is not based upon a set of laws that the Jews must keep in order to be God's people. In other words, it is no longer, "if you keep these new laws, then you'll be my people." The New Covenant is a covenant of grace which is administered by God through faith in Jesus.  So now instead of saying, "keep these laws and you will be my treasured possession" God says, "my son has kept the laws and HE is my treasured possession so trust in him." And so all who are in Jesus, are considered to be covenant keepers and can claim the promises of the new covenant.  (The promises of the New Covenant are better promises than those of the Old Covenant too, but that's for a later discussion)  

So the New Covenant is not one of laws, and Jews, and statues, and sacrifices, but it is one of faith. Not works, but faith. It is a covenant of faith in Jesus Christ as the only covenant keeper, as the only one who has peace with God. 

NO GOING BACKThose who believe that Israel is still today God's chosen people fail to realize that there are only two ways that they can possibly again become God's "treasured possession."
1. Keep all of the demands of the Old Covenant. 
2. Trust in the one who has fulfilled the Old Covenant, Jesus the Christ. 

If they choose the first they can never be God's treasured possession. If they choose the second, they have to admit that God has fulfilled the covenant he made with them and they must enter into God's favor by faith, just like everyone else. This means that only those Jews who exercise faith are God's treasured possession. Likewise, only those Gentiles who exercise faith are God's treasured possession. So treasured possession status is not an ethnic thing. Now, there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. God's only treasured possession are those who have faith. Both Jew and Gentile are on equal footing and must come to God through the exact same door, Jesus Christ. 

If we are to believe that God intends to go back to an ethnic people group, the Jews, then we have to assert that treasured possession status is no longer by faith, but by faith plus ethnicity. However, that's not how God works. God does not favor one ethnicity over any other. 

The summation of the matter is this; God promised that the Jews would be his treasured possession IF they would keep the demands of the Old Covenant. They did not keep the demands of the Old Covenant. They thereby failed to be his treasured possession. The only way to regain that status as a special ethnicity is to go back and re-institute the Old Covenant. Re-instituting the Old Covenant would (for the Jew) render pointless all that Jesus has accomplished and there would be two doors for becoming God's treasured possession. Door one would be for the ethnic Jewish people who are God's treasured possession because they are obedient Jews and door two would be for the gentiles who trust in Jesus.      

Of course, some would still argue that the Jews still remain God's treasured possession and he intends to bring the whole nation of Israel to faith in Jesus. Thus, they would both be his treasured possession because they are Jews, AND he is going to bring them to faith in Jesus because they are Jews. This would uphold salvation by faith in Jesus and at the same time uphold the idea that the Jews are still God's special people. 

It is possible that a great majority of ethnic Jews will hear the gospel and come to faith in Jesus, but the question remains, will this happen simply because they are Jews?  I don't think so. One of the major themes of the New Testament is that God does not show favor to one ethnicity over another but treats them all alike according to faith. So there is no room for God showing gospel favor to one ethnicity over another, even if that ethnicity is Jewish.

Further, even if the Jews did come to faith in Christ, this faith does not give them rights to possess the land (again, that covenant has ended), for if being in Christ does grant a person right to possess the land, then I have just as much right to take land for myself in Israel.  But being in Christ doesn't grant anyone possession of any physical land and that has to be true for both Jew and Gentile alike. If not, then we have to assume that the sacrifice of Christ earned extra wealth for the Jews that it did not earn for the Gentiles. This of course is heresy, and blasphemy. For God has made one new man out of the two, there is not partiality. There is no distinction, and further, the covenant that promised the land no longer exists. 

The church at large misses the above point however and they assume that God loves Christians and Jews and he's angry with gentile unbelievers. This is not the case at all. There are not three classes of people, Christian, Jew, and unbelieving Gentile but there are only two classes, believer and unbeliever.  

American Christians NOT proclaiming the Gospel to Israel
The reason that I desire to correct this popular misconception is because when the church makes the mistake of thinking that God treasures Israel, the church fails to love them. Consider for example the fact that Christians around the world have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into Israel for the express purpose of supporting ethnic Jews and the state of Israel. Consider that there are Christian ministries, being supported by average Christians, that spend millions of dollars to help Jews move back to Israel. Millions of dollars are spent, thousands of hours of work, thousands of Christian laborers, all engaged in helping the Jews to hear the gospel of Jesus ...I mean to build for themselves an ethnic nation. Since Christians still believe the Jews to be God's people, they value the ethnic nation more than they do Jesus and His gospel. Some might argue that Christians don't value the nation over the gospel, but where you spend most of your money and your energy is absolute proof of what you value most.  Sadly, Christians have come to value an ethnic bloodline more than they value the blood of Jesus Christ. 

Imagine for a moment if we didn't believe that the Jews held some special status in God's sight. Imagine if we thought that the Jews were going to end up in hell if they didn't hear and believe the gospel message of salvation through faith in Jesus. Imagine if we thought that they were just as helpless and as hopeless as every other ethnicity on the planet today.  I think that if we believed that, we would stop using our money, ministers, energy, and resources to "help God" keep his promise to his people, and we would instead, spend all of our time and resources proclaiming the good news that God HAS kept his promises to them in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and if they will repent of their sin and repent of their works righteousness and have faith in Jesus, they can become like the believing Gentiles, a true son of Abraham.   

*Next week, I will address one of the most misunderstood passages of Scripture which seemingly points to a future date when God will make a majority of the ethnic Jews come to faith in Jesus, Romans 9-11. Stay tuned.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams and the Broken Pitcher

A lot of people are talking about the suicide of Robin Williams. What has been glaringly absent from the discussion is Robin's worldview.  Robin didn't have much use for the idea of God, other than a punch line for his jokes. During his battles with Cocaine and alcohol he said that the answer to life's problems was "mind over matter." He was a man who learned to cope with life by always being the comedian. Those who knew him said that he was "always in character." One of his closest friends, Jamie Masada, said. "I knew him 35 years, and I never knew him."

Why did Robin choose to cope with life's trouble by being the clown? Why did he laugh and mock everything that he could?  Why did he have more fame than most actors will ever achieve, more money than most will achieve and more depression than most will know? 

In Jeremiah 2:13, God says, "My people have committed two evils. First, they have forsaken me the fountain of living water, and second, they have made pitchers for themselves, broken pitchers that can hold no water." 

If only he would have seen that Jesus Christ is the fountain of living water and all other pursuits and possessions do not fulfill. They cannot.  We were created BY Jesus Christ, FOR Jesus Christ. God has cursed this world and everything in it.  Our bodies are cursed with sickness, disease, and pain, the creation is cursed with war between man and animal, man and man, man and weather. Weeds grow like... well, weeds while crops struggle to survive, and at the deepest point of the well of our hearts we remain cut off from the only source of water. If we pay attention we should clearly hear God telling us that something is wrong.

When God cursed our bodies, and the earth, and our relationships, he did us a favor. In doing so, he shouts to us, SOMETHING IS WRONG! But even with God shouting in our ears, we refuse to listen. We refuse to humble ourselves and confess that it is not just Adam's sin that is responsible for the chaos of this world, but our own. And so we go on, clapping our hands over our ears and telling ourselves that more money, or fame, or humor, or fun, or drugs, or alcohol will fix it all. Robin was blessed in that he was able to learn first hand that the oasis of money and fame was just a mirage. He knew that they were simply broken pitchers that can't quench the one who thirsts. Robin was also sinful and he never listened to the shouts of God that were constantly ringing in his ears telling him that something was, and is, wrong. He had everything that this world could offer and it was not enough, and so in the end, instead of humbling himself and going to drink from the fountain of Living Water, Jesus Christ, he took his own life.

Money couldn't fix him. Power couldn't fix him. Fame couldn't fix him. Drugs and alcohol couldn't fix him and he knew that.  So where else do you go when you find that the world does not satisfy? You either live the rest of your life empty like the broken pitchers that you've been trying to drink from, or you turn to the fountain of life and live.  Robin chose the former and couldn't bear being empty any longer. Robin William's death is sad and tragic, but it need not be pointless. We can learn from him. We can see his mistake and avoid it ourselves. We can humble ourselves and turn to the Fountain of Living Water, Jesus Christ.

Let us learn from his mistake. Come to Jesus before it's too late. He is the only fountain of water, the only hope, and the one who will reverse all of the curses when he comes.  So, look to him and find your hope in him. If you do so, he will show himself to you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Do you support Israel, or Jesus? (Part 1 of 3)

Abraham is the father of the Jewish religion. He is also the father of the Christian religion. So Christians and Jews should be friends right? Millions of Christians have been taught just that for almost 150 years but it's wrong! Let me explain.

Long ago, God appeared to Abraham and promised Abraham that his family line would be the one that produced the Messiah, the savior of the world.  If you follow the story of the Bible, you will clearly see that Abraham had Isaac, Isaac had Jacob, and whole story of the Bible reveals the events surrounding the lives of each following generation. But the story of Abraham's descendants ends when we get to Jesus. The Bible simply stops recording Abraham's family lineage. This is because Jesus was and is the Messiah that God promised to Abraham and there is no more need to trace the family history.  The reason for the tracking of Abraham's family line had come in the person of Jesus. But the nation of Israel hated Jesus and wanted him dead. In fact, they killed him. After Jesus rose from the dead, he commanded his disciples to preach the good news to all the Jews. He commanded that they preach the forgiveness of sins through the greatest and last sacrifice ever offered to God, Jesus' own blood. His disciples obeyed the command to preach about Jesus but the Jews hated them too and wanted them to stop teaching about Jesus, they didn't even want them to speak the name. (Acts 4:18).  As time went on, the Jews completely rejected Jesus' followers and they rejected the gospel of forgiveness of sin that they preached. (Acts 13:44-50) In fact, the last words that are recorded from the Jews are in regard to the Apostle Paul, "Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live...and when it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves to an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul." (Acts 22:22, 23:12). In short, they hated the gospel and wanted to ban it from their society.  Shortly thereafter, the Lord destroyed the temple and all of Israel thereby sending them fleeing in all directions across the globe and Israel was no more. But the moral of the story is, the Jews hate the gospel message. 


The next time that we see the Jews is almost 2,000 years later in 1948. Shortly after World War II the United Nations decided to send the Jews back to the land that they had lost in the year 70 AD. Since that time, Christian churches and Christian organizations have been sending money to Israel by the tens of millions of dollars per year. Israel has used the money to advance their many causes, one of them being the stamping out of the gospel. Yes that's right, stamping out of the gospel.  They haven't changed that much at all in 2,000 years. Israel is a very consistent people. They fought against the gospel when it was first preached at the outset and they continue to fight against it now. The difference is this: in the first century, Christians around the world collected money to send to the Christians living in Jerusalem who were suffering under the oppressive gospel hating environment.  Today, Christians in America send money to the oppressive gospel haters to help them persecute the Christians in Jerusalem.  Pretty crazy right? Can you imagine the early Christians collecting money to send to the High Priests and Pharisees that were trying to stomp them out? And yet that's what American Christians are doing.  (Keep reading and I'll explain why American Christians do this.)


A Pamphlet by the Counter-missionary
Department of Israel warning Christians
that they and their gospel are not welcome.
Israel has always hated the gospel since the very beginning and they continue to fight against it today. In fact, there exists in Israel the "Counter Missionary Department" which seeks to put an end to missionary efforts in the Nation. I'll post a few links at the end of this post so you can see first hand how serious Israel is about stamping out the gospel. For now, stop reading and take a moment to read the leaflet to the left in order to see what American Christian money is helping to pay for.

So the question that you may be asking yourself is "why are Christians giving millions of dollars to people who want to put a stop to Christianity in Israel?"  The answer is pretty complicated because it is based upon a massive theological system which was put together to prove the superiority of the Jewish people. In fact, most Americans have been indoctrinated with this theological system and don't even know it. This explains why they blindly funnel millions of dollars into the hands of people who hate Jesus.

As I mentioned above, the reason for Christian support of Israel is based upon an expansive theological system and it would require several blog posts to highlight the problems and errors of the system with sufficient detail. However, I will attempt to get to the heart of it very quickly here.

In the 1800's a new theological idea came onto the scene which put forth the idea that everyone who is descended from Abraham (that is all Jews) are God's chosen people. In essence, it was taught that God had two different chosen people, the physical descendants of Abraham (Jews) and the Spiritual descendants of Abraham (Christians).  Thus, since we're both God's chosen people, we are friends, allies, and brothers who worship the same God and should support one another. And since God promised Abraham that his descendants would possess all of the land in Israel, we came to believe that all descendants of Israel have a right to all the land God promised. So Christians came to believe that Israel should rule the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River because that's what God promised Abraham. So Christians began to support Israel in all their efforts to reclaim that land. Christians do this by sending millions of dollars to Israel to make it happen. (They also believe that when this happens that Jesus will return, so there's quite a bit of incentive to get it done)

Of course the problem with the above theology is that it is simply not true. Not everyone who is descended from Abraham is God's chosen.  In fact, the Bible clearly teaches that only a select few descendants of Abraham are God's chosen people. Let me give you a few texts which back up this claim.

From the Mouth of Jesus
On one occasion Jesus was talking with a large crowd of descendants of Abraham and Jesus told them that he could set them free.  They responded by saying, "we are not enslaved, we are descendants of Abraham!"
Jesus answered them saying, "I know that you are descendants of Abraham, yet you seek to kill me because my words find no place in you. But I speak of what I have seen from MY Father and you do what you have heard from YOUR father. And the people answered him saying, "Abraham is our father!" But Jesus answered them saying, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works that Abraham did, but you seek to kill a man who tells you the truth that I received from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works of your father... for you are of your father the devil."

So we clearly see that Jesus acknowledges that the Jews are descendants of Abraham and yet he says that they are not children of Abraham because they do not do what Abraham did, namely, believe God. Jesus seems to think that the blood descendants are not really God's chosen people but instead God's people are those who believe Jesus' message. What do you call people who believe and obey Jesus' message? Christians!  So according to Jesus the only descendants of Abraham that are God's chosen are those who become Christians.

From the Pen of Paul
Paul had been preaching and teaching that God sent Jesus to save God's people but the glaring problem in the eyes of those who listened to Paul is that Jesus seems to have failed because "God's people" were not accepting of Jesus or his gospel of the forgiveness of sins. Paul realized that they had mistakenly believed that all descendants of Abraham were God's people and so he responds,
"God has not failed (to save his people) for not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants...it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but it is the children of the promise." In other words, Paul is correcting the erroneous idea that all descendants of Abraham are God's chosen people. Paul clearly says, "being a descendant of Abraham is not a physical thing but a spiritual thing."  Only the "children of promise" are God's chosen people.  And who are the children of promise?  Those who believe and obey the gospel of Jesus, which we commonly call Christians.

Also, in the book of Galatians Paul says that those Jews who reject Jesus are like Ishmael (descended from Israel but definitely NOT God's chosen) and the Jews who receive Jesus are like Isaac (descended from Abraham AND God's chosen). He also says, "Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham."  (Gal. 3:7).  In other words, those who are not of faith are not sons of Abraham. Scripture could not be clearer on this point.

What we see in Scripture over and over again is that Christians are God's chosen people.  The Gentiles that entrust themselves to Jesus are God's chosen. The descendants of Abraham that entrust themselves to Jesus are God's chosen. This is why it can be said that Jesus destroyed the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile. Before Jesus, Jews were the chosen people of God and the Gentiles were the un-chosen. Now that Jesus has come, there is no more Jew as chosen and Gentile as un-chosen.  We are now all equally God's chosen if we are in Jesus. Thus, the physical bloodline means nothing. Being a physical descendant of Abraham means nothing. Remember Jesus' words, "I know that you are descendants of Abraham... but if you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works that Abraham did (have saving faith)" Descendants of Abraham are not truly descendants of Abraham unless they believe and obey the Gospel. When I was a kid I remember singing the children's song, "Father Abraham had many sons... I am one of them and so are you."  That's good theology for a child's song! But how can a gentile boy sing that he is a son of Abraham? Because "those of faith who are the sons of Abraham" and not those who are of flesh and blood.

There was a  time when God showed partiality. God chose Israel out of all the world to be his own ethnic people. No other ethnicity mattered. Jews were the only chosen people of God. God entered into covenant with them, delivered the law to them, and established the line of the Messiah through them. God dwelled with them, protected them, blessed them and established them in the land. They were a people to whom all the promises were given for God promised these things to Abraham's seed.
There was a time when God showed partiality but that time has come to an end. God entered into covenant with ethnic Israel and promised to be their God if they would keep the covenant. When God entered into covenant with them he said, "if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."  They however did not keep the covenant and so the promises which came with the covenant could not be given to them. Not one single Jew ever kept the terms of the covenant and not one single Jew could therefore be given the promises... well ok, there was this one Jew who did keep the covenant.  To him all the promises were given, and to him alone. Paul puts it this way, "All the promises of God are yes and amen in Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 1:20) He is the keeper of the covenant, he is the recipient of all the promises, he is the seed of Abraham to whom all the promises were originally given. Paul makes this clear in Galatians 3:16 "Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ."

So the Jews are no longer "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" because that promise can only be given to the one who keeps the covenant.  In other words, Jesus is "a kingly priest" and he is the "holy nation." These titles belong to Christ only, and Jesus confers these promises to the ones who are unified to him in faith.  This is why in the New Testament, Peter says to all the Christians that they are now "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (1 Peter 2:9)  This is said of those who are in Christ, not those who are physically descended from Abraham.   Those who trust in Christ are unified in him and thereby receive all the promises.  Anyone outside of Christ has no single claim on any promise at all. Therefore, God will not show any favor to any people, nation, or race, that is not unified to Jesus in faith. This is why Luke records in the book of Acts, "Peter opened his mouth and said, "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." Conversely, we can say that in every nation anyone who does not fear him and do what is right is not acceptable to him.

The bottom line is this, God does not favor any ethnicity over any other. I know that this is hard to hear if you're an American Christian and have been taught all your life that Israel does have favor in God's sight. But think about that position for a second.  Doesn't the Bible say that Jesus has destroyed the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile?  Doesn't the Bible say that God sees all ethnicities equally and that he doesn't treat one differently than any other? Doesn't the Bible teach that the only way to be on good terms with God is through faith in Jesus? The only way to be called the people of God is to be joined to the Son of God. All others are imposters. That is the gospel that the Apostles preached and that is the gospel that the Jews hated to hear. Israel is made up of those who love and accept the gospel of Jesus and those who hate and reject the gospel of Jesus. Similarly, every nation on earth is made up of the same.  Israel does not have some special status in God's eyes. To support Israel is not to support Jesus. To support Israel is to support those who hate Jesus. Israel is not any more friendly to Christians than it was 1,900 years ago.  We Christians should know that. Acceptance or rejection of Jesus means everything!

In part 2 we will look at why Israel cannot be God's people and how we, as Christians, are the only people that can be God's people.  We will also look at how we should view the Palestinian conflict in light of this Biblical truth. Be sure to subscribe to the blog in order to get the second installment of this important subject. Don't let ignorant pastors lead you into unintentionally supporting enemies of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

*In the United States we have the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and other such departments. In Israel they have what is known as the "Department of Counter-Missionaries."  It is a non-profit organization that is funded in part by Israel's department of the interior and was created to stamp out missionary efforts and the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can click on the links below to see what they are currently doing in Israel.
 Example 1  Example 2   Example 3 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Seriously, stop asking Jesus into your heart!

Last week, I published "Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart" and it seems that some have misunderstood what I what I was trying to communicate, so I think that a little more explanation is necessary. Allow me to tell you a story. Let's go back to 1984, no not George Orwell's 1984 but the real 1984. 

"When you get to the bottom, turn your front wheel and you'll go sliding sideways" I yelled. My friend and I were riding our Big Wheels down the slope of his driveway allowing gravity to be our accelerator. We both grew up in Houston, Texas and this was a typical summer day in 1984. As we accelerated down the driveway and skidded our way into the street (we did a lot of dumb things growing up) a neighbor, a pleasant and friendly young man, saw us playing.  Seeing us skid into the street, he probably thought that he should share the gospel with us seeing as how we probably wouldn't make it very long in this world. So he called me and my friend over for a talk and a Coke. It was a typical Houston day, which means that it was blisteringly hot, and growing up as we did, a Coca-Cola was a rare treat. And so we accepted the invite for a Coke, and the only price we had to pay was to sit through a few minutes of Jesus talk. Both my friend and I sat there on the steps of the kind stranger's home and listened intently to what the man had to say. At the end of his presentation, he asked if we would like to ask Jesus into our hearts so that we could be sure that we would go to heaven when we die.

Both I and my friend wanted to go to heaven. (We certainly didn't want to go to hell.) So, we did what anyone would do when presented with the option of heaven or hell, we picked heaven. And it was of course explained to us that in order to go to heaven we needed to have our sins forgiven. And in order for our sins to be forgiven, we needed to ask Jesus into our hearts and ask him to forgive us.  So we did. We both prayed and asked Jesus to forgive us and to come into our hearts. I was saved. I was changed. I went home and the course of my life had been set. I was now on a mission, submit to the Word of God in all things, seek to obey God in all things, and strive to love God with all my heart. I was a new man boy, or as Scripture puts it, "I was a new creation, the old had passed away and behold the new had come." I was born again.

My friend asked Jesus into his heart too. He heard the same message, prayed the same prayer, and did everything that I did.  From that day on, he was the same. He didn't care about God, and had no desire to serve God or please God. He didn't care what the Bible said and he simply remained the same. As time went on, he began to pursue those things which unbelievers pursue; sex, alcohol, entertainment, and a life of ease. To this very day, 30 years later, he remains exactly as he always was, without God, without faith, without repentance, without salvation. As Scripture puts it,  he has always been one "who's end is destruction, who's god is his belly, and who glories in his shame, with a mind set on earthly things."

So, what's the difference?  Why was I saved and my friend not?  We both had the same backgrounds. We both had an average intelligence. We both drank the same Coke, heard the same message, prayed the same prayer and asked for the same forgiveness of sins.  Why then was I saved and he not? Well, anyone who understands the gospel, understands that salvation comes through FAITH.  It is belief in the gospel that unites us to the Savior. So the honest answer is that I believed the gospel and he didn't. I was saved through faith in what I heard. This is how everyone is saved, by grace through FAITH. He was not saved, simply because he didn't believe.

Now those who believe that asking Jesus into one's heart is a good practice will listen to my story and say, "see, asking Jesus into your heart isn't a bad thing, you yourself were saved by asking Jesus into your heart." What many people fail to consider is that I was not saved by asking Jesus into my heart. I was saved by faith.  I was saved at the first moment that I believed. and I believed when I heard. So, if we put it on a timeline, it would look like this, 1. I heard the message. 2. I believed the message as I heard it. 3. I was led to ask Jesus into my heart. 4. I went home changed.

Now when was I saved? Was I saved at point 1, 2, 3, or 4? Well, if you affirm that salvation comes through faith, then you have to say that I was saved at point 2, several minutes before I asked Jesus into my heart. So now the question arises. Why should our evangelistic neighbor have told us to ask Jesus into our heart at all?  Praying that prayer didn't save me, I was already saved before I prayed it, for I believed and was saved. Praying didn't help my friend either. He didn't believe the message that was preached to him and having him repeat a prayer didn't help him to start believing. He had already decided not to believe when he was at step 2, several minutes before he was asked to pray?  These details are not insignificant. Some may want to respond and say that praying the prayer didn't make me stop believing, and it didn't make my friend start believing, so no harm no foul right? No, not at all. Not if you have been paying attention to the details. Great harm had been done.


Thirty years have gone by and my friend is still not saved. But he thinks he is.  You see, when he was a little boy someone told him that his sin could be forgiven if he would just ask Jesus into his heart. Now, when someone tries to talk to him about becoming a Christian he says, "I am a Christian, I've already asked Jesus into my heart and I know that a person can't lose his salvation so don't worry about me."  Do you see how sad this makes me?  He has been inoculated from the gospel of salvation through faith and he has believed a different gospel, the gospel of salvation through prayer. Unless the Lord works a miracle, he will die believing that he is saved and that his sins have been forgiven. 

It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and talk about how our evangelistic neighbor "should have" done things but sometimes correction needs to be given. I don't harbor any ill feelings toward him, he brought me the gospel after all. So I don't want to attack him. I'm sure that if he could go back in time and see the damage that was done that he would do it differently. But what should he have done? How could he have done it differently?  Well, it seems to me that if he were focused on the Christian doctrine of salvation by Jesus through faith in the gospel, that he would not have seen some superstitious prayer as the pinnacle of what he needed to communicate that day. If he were focusing on the message of Jesus as the human-lamb that was sacrificed to appease the wrath of an angry and just God, and the need to believe upon Him as the only means of salvation and forgiveness, then his big crescendo would not have been "if you pray this prayer ask Jesus into your heart you can be saved." But instead, his highest theme would have been, "do you believe this? If you believe this gospel children then you will be saved. For God sent his son into the world not to condemn it but to save it, for God loved the world by sending his only begotten son so that whoever BELIEVES in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  So you must believe children, you must believe. And you must keep believing. Don't be like the seed that takes root and grows for a time and then withers away but keep believing until you take your very last breath. For if you believe you will be saved." But, instead of pointing us to believe his pointed us to pray.  And as I mentioned earlier this prayer didn't help me any, for as he spoke the gospel to me on that hot and humid day, I believed what I heard and I was saved through my faith in the gospel. The prayer didn't help me, but it hurt my friend. It hurt him deeply, it still hurts him every passing moment because with every sand that falls through the hourglass that is his life, he continues resting secure in a false gospel, believing that salvation comes by prayer.

The reason that I wrote "Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart" is because what happened on those porch steps that day in 1984 is not an isolated incident. It happens all the time all around the world.  Parents make this mistake with their children, Sunday School teachers make this same mistake with their students, VBS leaders do the same with the neighborhood kids, and pastors do this with millions upon millions of souls every year. This is why the church invented what is called "re-dedications." Re-dedications happen when it comes to light that asking Jesus into one's heart didn't work the first time so we need to try it again, and again and again. But since we can't call it "asking Jesus into your heart" (because a person has already done that) we instead call it a re-dedication. And so the gospel gets turned into "dedicate yourself to doing things that please Jesus" and so it goes from bad to worse. What ever happened to preaching faith? What happened to commanding, urging, convincing, and reasoning with people to believe? "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."

 In my own personal experience there were only two of us and 50% of the audience that day was harmed by the practice. Even if we say 20% or even as little as 10% of hearers are harmed worldwide, that's still millions of souls harmed. Parents who have (albeit unintentionally) made their children to trust not in the gospel but in a religious exercise are parents that suffer from self inflicted wounds. Think of the mothers who cry by their bedside at night praying that their child would return to Jesus, while her child feels perfectly safe because he believes that he was saved when he "asked Jesus into his heart."

The practice of asking Jesus into ones heart has never caused anyone to believe. Those who believe start believing long before any prayer is offered and so for them it adds no benefit. Conversely, those who don't believe end up getting harmed by the practice and often times go to their grave believing a false gospel of salvation through prayer instead of the true gospel of salvation through faith. It is time that we end this practice. The Bible emphasizes that one must BELIEVE in order to be saved. It's about time that we start emphasizing the same. The Bible never mentions anything close to asking Jesus into our hearts, it's about time that we don't mention it either. We are not smarter than God even though we think we are sometimes. Let's humble ourselves, stick to what he has taught us, and abandon those things that he hasn't. Let's stop giving out vaccinations that inoculate hearts from the gospel of salvation by faith. In our day we have changed God's word. God has said that faith comes by hearing, and we seem to think that it comes by speaking. So seriously, stop asking Jesus into your heart, it helps no one and hurts many. Just stop.

It may be that you yourself have asked Jesus into your heart once. It may be that you feel safe, secure and forgiven because you did. But, are you still the same you? Did you really believe?  Do you still believe? Are you still in your sin? Believe the gospel.  Jesus died for sin and reigns as King of Kings. If you believe this then you have bowed your knee to him and have turned your back on sin. However, if you believe that you were saved by asking Jesus into your heart, then you have not left your sin.  Who are you a new creation? Or one who's god is your belly, who enjoys shameful things, and who's mind is set on earthly things?

If you live in the Sugar Land area, we invite you to come visit Emmaus Road Church and hear a faithful and true gospel message. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart!


When I was a kid growing up with 2 brothers, we would get into fights all the time. Sometimes, my mother or father would send us to our rooms and tell us that we could not come out until we decided to say sorry to one another. So, in an effort to be released quickly we would tell them that we were ready to "say sorry" so that we could go on playing. Of course we really were not sorry, we were sorry that we got caught; we were sorry that we were stuck in our rooms; but we were not sorry that we had hit/slapped/bit/scratched/punched/called names. We simply said, "I'm sorry" so that we could get out of the punishment. 

Similarly, millions of people around the world have asked Jesus into their hearts and asked God to forgive their sin and they have been told that in doing so, their sin is forgiven. "Just tell God that you're sorry and you can go to heaven" they say, but it's just not true.  I can remember once attending a massive evangelistic even in Houston, directed by Luis Palau. It was a day of concerts, games, food and fun and it ended with a 30 minute message by Luis Palau himself.  At the end of his message, he quoted Revelation 3:20  "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him and he with me."  He then explained that Jesus was knocking at the door of everyone's hearts and was asking to come in and if people would just let Jesus into their hearts that they would be saved. This was followed by an invitation for everyone to "repeat after me" and "receive Jesus into your heart."  Of course, this is all an elaborate hoax. There is no such thing as asking Jesus into your heart.

What people don't realize is that in Revelation 3:20, Jesus is talking to Christians.  Jesus is telling Christians that he desires to be close to them and to eat with them and they need to repent of their materialistic ways and return to him.  The command is to "Those whom I love" and to those whom "I reprove and discipline." We know that this can only mean Christians since God only disciplines Christians. (Hebrews 12:5-8) 
Millions of people have asked Jesus into their heart and have never actually been saved. Are you one of those individuals who have been hoping that asking Jesus into your heart would                                                                                     help you somehow?  You're in great danger!

The Bible is a historically accurate book. The details regarding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are historically accurate and have been substantiated time and time again despite the myriad of people who have tried to poke holes in the facts. In other words, the Bible has shown that its content can be trusted. We learn from historical documents like this all the time, For example, we all believe that George Washington was the first President to serve under the constitution, not because we saw him, but because we can read the historical documents and all history attests to the fact that Washington WAS the first president. Similarly, we have no reason to believe that the Bible is in error regarding Jesus, his teachings, and his resurrection. So the only valid reason not to believe the Bible would be, "Jesus' body has been found" or something like it. The Bible is a trustworthy historical document, just as trustworthy as any other. Just like 2+2=4. You can bank on it. 

Knowing that the Bible is historically 
accurate, we now have to look in on what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that this Universe and all that is in it came into being because God made it. It teaches that humanity was the best and highest of all his creation having been created in His image. It teaches that our human race was plunged into sin and ruin because of Adam's rebellion against God. It teaches that, you and I are now at enmity with God, we hate him and refuse to believe his words. It teaches that in God's justice (God must uphold perfect justice since he is perfect in every way) he must punish us for all our sins and hatred towards him. It teaches that he sent Jesus to pay the demands of justice himself on our behalf. "He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become innocent before God." The Bible teaches that God will put an end to this world one day and bring everyone before him in judgment. He will remake the world, a world free from sin and it's affects (sickness, death, sinful men, heartache, depression, hatred, and the like) Thus, if you have received pardon from Jesus you will be glorified with him and live with him in a new world like the one that he originally created (before sin ruined everything). But, if you go to your grave hating him and refusing to listen to him then you will be cast into the lake of fire which was prepared for Satan and his demonic ranks. 

Now, these are some pretty significant claims. Some pretty far out claims right? But here's the question you have to ask and answer. Are they true? Are these claims true? And the place to start is with the resurrection of Jesus. If the resurrection holds up as historically true (which it does) then we can safely assume that Jesus is the ultimate teacher on all things spiritual. He can be trusted. So when Jesus says that 2+2=4 we should listen and believe. When Jesus says that all those who believe His gospel will be saved, and all those who do not believe will be damned, then we should listen.  

Therefore, I encourage you to begin by humility. Consider you own sinfulness. If you can begin there, believing that your sins are significant and deserving of the wrath of God, then you will not be far from the Kingdom of God. But if you cannot humble yourself and see your sinfulness in truth, then you will never seek to have peace with God and you will be in trouble. 

Jesus himself said, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God."

So, if you believe that asking Jesus into your heart will secure forgiveness for your sin, you are sorely mistaken. But, if you believe the gospel, in spirit and in truth then you will be saved.  So when you say that you believe in Jesus, is it simply because you want to get out of trouble, or is it because you hate all sin and want to be free from sin and leave it behind?  To believe the first will damn you, to live out the second will save you. Turn to Jesus and be saved.